My mother told the A and E receptionist ‘He’s sustained a bad a cut.’ I leant in to the window and corrected her. ‘Actually, I’ve been stabbed,’ I said. It’s possible I sounded irritated, but I was speaking the truth. My sister had stabbed me in the upper left arm with a long, white-handled kitchen-knife. I had a small towel wrapped around the wound to soak up the blood. Continue reading
Imagine going to Sainsbury’s or Tesco every week for years, handing over fifty quid each time, and those organisation never having what you’re looking for. The problem would only be with the supermarket for a ‘certain’ amount of time before ‘questions could be asked’ about the intelligence of the shopper. So on that note… Continue reading
What a man takes for granted, what he offers almost as an aside, is where you’ll find the things he thinks but doesn’t state openly. Then again, perhaps I’m reading too closely?
In his most recent Sunday column, Peter Hitchens writes that:
It is, beyond doubt, the case that our treatment of the mentally ill is a terrible mess. It is also beyond doubt that much mental illness appears to be linked to legal or illegal mind-altering drugs, now far more common than they were 30 years ago. This long predates the era of Islamic terror. One of the first cases was in 1992 when Jonathan Zito was stabbed to death by Christopher Clunis, a total stranger (and longstanding drug-abuser) who was severely mentally ill. This horror, oddly enough, took place at Finsbury Park.
How does a 1992 case of violence pre date ‘the era of Islamic terror’?
What ‘era’ is that?
On August 3 1989 Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh blew himself up in a hotel in Paddington, becoming the first ‘martyr’ in the plot to murder Salman Rushdie and anyone else involved in the hideous crime of publishing a novel.
In 1983 a truck stuffed with TNT was used by a group – called, oddly enough, ‘Islamic Jihad’ – to murder 241 US Marines in Beirut. Continue reading
Certainly there is some rage against the idea of God, but the idea that theists are stupid because they’re theists is a stupid idea. Anyone who cares to could find out in about five seconds that there have been many theists who were frighteningly intelligent. There are many now. I don’t think belief in God is a question of intelligence to begin with, but I do think it’s a question of values. This isn’t a criticism. In the amusing documentary, Religulous, Bill Maher said to a few trucker-Christians that he considered atheism a luxury. He was right. Atheism is a luxury.
This is why atheism is a luxury: Continue reading
I used to be a red-meat-loving angry and intolerant atheist, whose favourite pastime – when not sucking marrow from the bones of dead babies – was munching on pork scratchings and slurping them down with a cold pint of chicken blood.
Things have changed.
Tim Farron has resigned. This seems to me to be evidence for the existence of God, and an answer – finally! – to the ‘problem of evil’.
Why does God allow evil to exist in the world when he has the power to do something about it? Well, now it seems God has finally taken action to reduce the evil in the world by removing Tim Farron from politics.
The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, was asked to clarify his views on homosexuality. Mr Farron, who says he’s a Christian, was asked if he thought homosexuality was a sin. He chose not to answer immediately, then did answer. This is how Christopher Hope put it:
‘Tim Farron has finally clarified his view on gay sex after admitted that it had come a distracting “issue” for his general election campaign. The Liberal Democrat leader said in a BBC interview that gay sex is not a sin, after five days of pressure to clarify his stance on the issue. Mr Farron had faced criticism for days for failing to answer questions about his position on homosexuality. Mr Farron refused to say four times in an interview with Channel 4 News last week whether he believed being gay was a sin.’
The most interesting story is missed.
Consider the debate between writers Andrew Sullivan and Douglas Wilson on the question of same-sex marriage. Douglas Wilson is significantly Christian. Andrew Sullivan claims to be a Catholic while being significantly homosexual.
In their debate it was asked of Wilson what his position would be if, for instance, his son told him he was gay. Sullivan – after Wilson offered the slippery ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ line, asked an odd question. (The question was odd because if Sullivan is a Christian, one wonders why he didn’t already know the answer to a question which relates directly to his own sexuality.)
He asked Wilson:
‘What if he said “I’m gay and I’ve never had any sex with any other man”? What sin did he commit?’
‘I don’t believe that homosexual orientation is a sin.’
This reasoning should be obvious as sitting under the ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ line. Wilson’s reasoning seems to come straight from the Bible, specifically Leviticus (20:13) which states:
“If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.”
It is plain that homosexual acts are the problem. This formulation gives the Christian (if they know their Bible) the ‘get out’ clause which allows them to state, no, they do not think ‘being gay’ is a sin.
This is why the fuss made about Tim Farron is missing the point.
Why didn’t Farron immediately state that ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin? Why refuse, four times in an interview, to answer this question using the get-out clause above? It would have ended things right there.
Days later, he says that ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin – something the significantly Christian Douglas Wilson knew straight away.
Why didn’t Farron close the entire line of questioning down immediately by saying the same thing? It was Farron’s refusal to answer which got the press excited. By the time he popped up saying ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin, the hounds have worked out that isn’t the same thing as homosexual acts being sins, which is why the hounds sharpened their question to ask about ‘gay sex’.
And now Farron has been forced to state that he doesn’t think ‘gay sex’ is a sin, when the Christian book states it is. What of Farron’s position now?
Is he lying about his views to avoid being battered by the press as a homophobe? Would a professional politician do that? If he would, what does that say about his Christian convictions?
And the answer to that might be why Farron didn’t immediately play the sin/sinner card to begin with.
‘”I am going to get fat and lazy in Hill House,” Theodora went on. Her insistence in Naming Hill House troubled Eleanor. It’s as though she were saying it deliberately, Eleanor thought, telling the house she knows its name, calling the house to tell it where we are; is it bravado? “Hill House, Hill House, House House,” Theodora said softly, and smiled across at Eleanor.’
In 1959 Shirley Jackson published ‘The Haunting of Hill House.’ Stephen King called the novel ‘As nearly a perfect haunted-house tale as I have ever read.’ This quotation sits on the cover of the Penguin Modern Classics paperback, is placed above the title (and Mrs Jackson’s name) so it’s obvious the publisher was happy with it, and why.
The first paragraph of the book was noteworthy for King.
Discussing the haunted house tale in ‘Danse Macabre’, he suggests the house requires an ‘historical context’ – a dark history – and that ‘Jackson establishes it immediately in the first paragraph of her novel, stating her tale’s argument in lovely, dreamlike prose.’ He then quotes the famous opening:
No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly; floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
He says of the opening that
Analysis of such a paragraph is a mean and shoddy trick, and should almost always be left to college and university professors, those lepidopterists of literature who, when they see a lovely butterfly, feel that they should immediately run into the field with a net, catch it, kill it with a drop of chloroform, and mount it on a white board and put it in a glass case, where it will still be beautiful…and just as dead as horseshit.
He then goes on to offer some analysis of the opening paragraph. (He promises not to kill it or mount it, only to stun it a little before letting it fly on. I’m not sure he’s right to worry as much. I’ll change his metaphor to an analogy: what type of person doesn’t want to know how the magic-trick was done? What type does?)
Stephen King says he has neither the skill nor the inclination to offer a full analysis of Jackson’s dreamy opening. I’ll believe him about the inclination bit. Stephen King is a magician. I’d bet he knows exactly what Jackson’s opening does – but doesn’t want to reveal another magician’s secret.
Some think knowing the trick ruins the mystery. That depends on whether you prefer knowledge or mysteries. I’m not a magician, I always want to know how the trick is done, and I think knowing increases the beauty of it.
What does King say about it specifically? What he says about it first of all is interesting in itself. He states that
It begins by suggesting that Hill House is a live organism; tells us that this live organism does not exist under conditions of absolute reality; that because (although here I should add that I may be making an induction Mrs Jackson did not intend) it does not dream, it is not sane.
Does the opening ‘suggest’ Hill House is a live organism? I suppose it does, but ‘suggest’ is right. All humans are live organisms, and the first sentence tells us that to remain sane, live organisms need to dream. By ‘dream’ Jackson could well mean ‘fantasise’ or even ‘hallucinate’ as both these describe ways the mind of a live organism, a human one at any rate, can escape reality and therefore maintain sanity.
However I am unconvinced the first sentence actually refers to Hill House. It seems like it does, given the sentence which follows, but one needs to try to explain Jackson’s words ‘not sane’ to make this idea work.
Could she be telling nothing but the plain truth when describing Hill House as ‘not sane’? A house is indeed ‘not sane’ because it is a house, an object, not a live organism. Though something is ‘not sane’ it does not follow at all it must therefore be ‘insane’ – just as if something did not ‘turn left’ does not mean it necessarily ‘turned right’.
I think Jackson added ‘not sane’ into her description of Hill House to link it in the minds of readers with the first sentence, and could do so because to describe the house this way is still to tell the truth about it. If readers take it to mean something else then good: that might be the point – but Jackson hasn’t lied to anyone.
Once this piece of clever misdirection is complete, Jackson can then tell the plain truth about the house in more detail, knowing the reader will not be reading it as the plain truth. (Remove ‘not sane’ – therebye uncoupling it from the first sentence. Does it sound quite so creepy?)
Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly; floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
The ending sounds spooky, but it would be true of anyone who walked around a house by themselves. They would walk alone if that house wasn’t haunted.
In other words the first paragraph disorientates the reader; allows the reader to think the ‘problem’ – or the ‘issue’ as we might now say – lies with house, when the problem might really be with one of the characters about to pay Hill House a visit…
It was interesting listening to Peter Hitchens and Ken Livingstone discuss Fidel Castro. Their brief discussion strongly suggested that people will see clearly what they are looking for. Mr Livingstone’s and Mr Hitchens’s views might be the rehearsed, stock responses demanded by their political religions, but which of the gentleman is the more deceived?
Dictators get a ‘bad press’ because the public live in a condition of mass denial.
Hitler, Stalin, Castro – pick any one you want: none of these human beings could have had their way without the help of their own civil services and tens of thousands of humans helping them. Why do we make a fetish out of the pyramid’s top stone?
Having your genitals punctured doesn’t sound like fun, and the person that actually *did it* is no doubt less than a gentleman, but was that person Castro himself?
If the local council force you to knock down your garage because it lurched an inch too far to the left, do you blame the Theresa May ‘regime’? Do you think Mrs May even knows you exist?
It’s easy to imagine a person being tortured in prison while the dictator is told by his courtiers and flatterers that nothing of the kind is going on.
Here’s a fact many persons dislike for some reason: bureaucracy brings out a person’s inner sadist. The mask of anonymity allows may people to be themselves.
Dictators get blamed for everything that happens, yet they can’t possibly be responsible for everything which happens, and that means many others are in possession of the wickedness attributed to the leader. It is humans generally which are naturally bloodthirsty and cruel, not only the recognisable figureheads we’ve all learned to hate.
It’s easy for us to look at humans like Castro and Stalin and the rest and point our fingers and say ‘monster’. This is the denial in action.
There’s no such thing as ‘monsters’. It’s more comfortable for us to pretend we are not imperfectly evolved, savage animals, because to accept this fact means we might be more like Stalin and Castro than is comfortable to know. Most of us will never have the circumstances to draw the characteristics out of us.
If we want to be honest we should begin by being honest with ourselves. Which is more likely, that Castro was ‘inhuman’ and a ‘monster’, or that he did what people do when they have absolute power, or something close to it?
I’m always amused when the next human is described as a monster, be that human a famous dictator or a killer on trial. There are so many monsters one hears about: Brady and Hindley; Huntley; Hitler; Stalin; Mao; loads of tanned, sweaty blokes wearing sunglasses and medals running rape-factories down in Latin and South America; all those IRA torturers and the other lot from the other side who ripped each others’ teeth out with pliars: apparently these people were ‘psychopaths’ or something else.
So long as they’re never described as ‘human beings’ we’ll all be okay and can maintain our delusion that these dictators and killers are exceptional. They are not.
The paradox the religious talk themselves into is darkly amusing on this. They demand we are created, yet argue that without God, belief and so on, humans would suddenly drop their morals and behave like savage animals. They do this while rejecting the theory which shows humans are barely civilised animals. Evolution via natural selection.
It is not a world of men, Machine.
Some of us really – and I mean really – dislike the idea that we exist due to the laws of physics, chemistry and biology and a few hundred million years of imperfect evolution. Religion has lied to us, and we pass that lie down the generations by continuing to think we are created, not evolved, that we are seperate from nature, that we are not actually *animals*. On the materialist world view (that’ll be the one that’s almost certainly true) there are no ‘monsters’ – there are only human animals, naked apes. Most of us have our natures under control.
Who will state that, given the freedom of behaviour that comes with dictatorship and absolute power, they wouldn’t knock-off at least one opponent by easy-memo or give the nod to the bloke in the corner?
Or would nobody knock-off an enemy behind the chemical sheds because they’d be too busy being ‘shocked’ when they heard swear words to find the time?
Most people are preening, posing, paw-licking prats who refuse to see themselves for what they are.
That Fidel and his comrades overthrew Batista was a beautiful thing. Who would not think so? I’m not talking about the ‘regime’ which came after. Fidel might have been Cuban by birth, but he was Roman by nature.
Castro had himself a tyranny. It is justified, certainly, to say that, although it’s probably a good thing for all of us not to gaze into the abyss for too long. On tyranny, one thinks of a passage from ‘An Open Letter to Fidel Castro’ by Norman Mailer:
“We live in a country very different from Cuba. We have had a tyranny here, but it did not have the features of Batista; it was a tyranny one breathed but could not define; it was felt as no more than a slow deadening of the best of our possibilities, a tension we could not name which was the sum of our frustrations. [..] By law we had a free press; almost no one spoke his thoughts. By custom we had a free ballot; was there ever a choice? [..] In silence we gave you our support. You were aiding us, you were giving us psychic ammunition, you were aiding us in that desperate silent struggle we have been fighting with sick dead hearts against the cold insidious cancer of the power that governs us, you were giving us new blood to fight our mass communications, our police, our secret police, our corporations, our empty politicians, our clergymen, our editors, our cold frightened bewildered bullies who govern a machine made out of people they no longer understand, you were giving us hope they would not always win. That is why America persecuted you.”
Many of us thinks that the ‘I’ they use to refer to themselves is separate from their physical self, and perhaps takes the form of a little person who sits inside our head, looking through our eyes the way Captain Kirk looks through the screens of the Enterprise. Those who think this way are likely to be mistaken, but the mistake is a common one, and many people make it without knowing they’re doing so.
Many persons are more religious than they realise.
A person said to me recently, on the topic of what some call ‘gender reassignment’, that some of us are ‘born into the wrong body’. This is a common expression, used by persons to explain what causes a person to want to change their gender.
The idea that a person can be ‘born into the wrong body’ is physically, chemically, biologically, and philosophically illiterate. What makes the expression an interesting one has nothing to do with the ‘truth’ it contains, but rather what the expression presupposes.
The following isn’t perfect, but it will do. Imagine a factory, in which bodies are on a conveyor belt: robot arms insert the conscious mind into each head. Now imagine a fault in the celestial software which makes the belt lurch forward, throwing the bodies out of synch to their mind-inserting arms, and what is presupposed becomes clear.
Persons are not ‘born into’ their bodies at all. It is impossible, therefore, for a person to have been born into the wrong body. Every person is as nature ‘intended’.
(I marked the word out because I’m aware that ‘intention’ presupposes agency – which is obviously nonsense – but the expression is another good example of how our thoughts are saturated with the idea that consciousness can exist without the brain.)
Under ‘born into the wrong body’ is that very idea – that consciousness can exist without the brain.
What is under that idea?
Under that is the belief that we survive death.
And what is under that?
Under that, motivating everything else, is the fear of death.
Could it be that, a person can make a ‘throwaway’ remark on a topic about gender surgery, and what motivates it is a fear of death – something we weren’t talking about?